Washington, DC — Today, 900 spiritual leaders and multiple faith-based and immigrant rights groups delivered a letter to the White House urging the Biden administration to immediately halt all efforts to expand immigrant detention. With the one-year anniversary of President Biden's inauguration approaching, the signatories - including Church World Service, Detention Watch Network, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, UCC National Collaborative on Immigration, and members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition - expressed deep disappointment in the president for failing to keep his early promises to phase out private detention contracts.
In the letter, advocates highlight two immigrant detention facilities in Pennsylvania: the reopening of Moshannon Valley Correctional Center as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center and the expansion of the Berks County ICE detention center into an adult facility for women. These expansions take place as COVID-19 continues to surge across the country, underscoring the urgent need to free people from the harms of detention immediately. The letter signatories urged the Biden administration to reverse course and invest in community-based alternatives to detention and restore access to asylum.
Elissa Diaz, Advocacy Manager at Church World Service and Co-Chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, said: "The values of President Biden's faith tradition are common across faith traditions represented in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition: to welcome the immigrant in our midst, to love our neighbors, and to proclaim freedom for the oppressed. President Biden's decision to expand immigrant detention not only goes against these values of our faith, but also the promises he made to immigrants just one year ago. We urge the President to reverse course, return to the core callings of his faith, and put an end to his efforts to expand immigrant detention."
Rev. Deborah Lee, Executive Director, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, said: “One common theme in our diverse religious traditions is the value of human freedom: the right to live freely, to not face deprivation of movement and confinement. Immigration detention is not morally acceptable or necessary in any form. We know effective community based alternatives to detention exist. People can navigate their immigration proceedings while living at home, maintaining their employment, and receiving support from their family and wider community. We ask the administration to stand with the faith community to find ways to reduce all forms of captivity in favor of non-carceral solutions.”
Marcela Hernandez, Organizing Director of Detention Watch Network, said: “Biden’s continued actions to expand the immigration detention system despite the administration’s ongoing promises to end the use of for-profit detention and roll back ICE’s fundamentally flawed system is shameful. Detention centers represent abuse, trauma, and sometimes death. People are losing their lives to a detention system that simply does not need to exist. The Biden Administration must shut down immigration detention facilities, end detention contracts, and release people from detention immediately.”
In the letter, advocates demand the Biden administration take urgent action:
- Halt all other efforts to expand the ICE detention system through any new or extended ICE contracts; immediately terminate the contracts signed in November with Clearfield County for the Moshannon Valley facility and Berks County for the Berks facility;
- Start the process of phasing out inhumane immigrant detention systems by terminating the First Ten contracts as expressed in an earlier faith letter, as well as those at Yuba County Jail, Adelanto ICE Processing Center, and the Otay Mesa Detention Center, as requested by 24 members of the California congressional delegation;
- Apply the January 2021 Executive Order on privately operated prisons to end immigration detention contracts with private prison companies and local governments;
- Take meaningful steps to dismantle the system of mass immigrant incarceration and the use of detention for asylum processing;
- Move to restore access to asylum at the U.S. southern border by ending the CDC Title 42 policy and the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) “Remain in Mexico” program; and halt all deportations and expulsions to Haiti;
- Commit to reducing funding for ICE and CBP for FY 2023 - funding that could be reallocated for voluntary community-based resettlement services, a rights-respecting border management approach that protects the right of people to seek legal protection in the U.S., ensuring safe and regular processes to migrate, and strengthening families and communities through investments in education, housing, green infrastructure, and health care.
This letter supplements the demands made to the Biden administration by 220 civil society organizations.
Read the faith-based letter here.
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is made up of over 55 national, faith-based organizations brought together across many theological traditions with a common call to seek just policies that lift up the God-given dignity of every individual. In partnership, we work to protect the rights, dignity, and safety of all refugees and migrants. Follow us on Twitter @interfaithimm
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.